U sexual assault policy needs to move forward

The University is finally changing the way it handles sexual assault, but it should go further.

In a special project last week, the Minnesota Daily explored upcoming changes in the University’s procedure for dealing with sexual assault.

The University is falling into compliance with recent legislation, but it has been out of step with Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights guidelines for years.

While we’re pleased that the University is taking these steps, it’s disappointing that it’s taken a few years. Even if the lag affected only a handful of cases, it’s so difficult to report and investigate sexual assault that the University can’t afford any lost ground.

We urge the University to be less reactive in refining the way it responds to sexual assault. Instead of plodding to compliance with new federal laws, the University should be actively looking for ways to make the process more fair, sensitive and accessible.

For example, because the University funnels sexual assault cases through the same system as any other student conduct issue, those hearing the cases may not have adequate training to deal with the few they might hear in a year.

Northwestern University handles sexual conduct cases through a separate, specially trained hearing panel. The University of Illinois handles all sexual assault cases through its Title IX office. Separating the handful of sexual assault cases from the student conduct office’s deluge of academic issues and other cases would be a great, proactive step forward for a University that has seemingly struggled to keep up with best practices for handling sexual assault.